Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Thursday 28 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Greetings all!
I hope that this Christmas has found you all happy and healthy and in close contact with friends and family.  I know that in my circle of friends and family, there has been too many losses lately, and very sad ones at that.  I'm not quite ready to write about it, but my heart certainly goes out to those who have lost loved ones.  I know Christmas was a sad and lonely affair for many this year. Life can and does change so quickly.  We've had some sad reminders to slow down and appreciate the time we have.  
Lovely to see all that delicious hay in the stackyard!  I love it!  Such a good feeling to feed them quality hay.   A year like last winter/spring makes you appreciate such things!! 

On to cheerier topics, I didn't mean to start out on such a sad note!  
I mostly just wanted to say "Merry Christmas", post a few photos and thank those of you who have hung along for the ride on my blog (nope....still not used to that word...)  I really appreciate everyone who has written to me as well.  I love the feedback, and really love how this wee page has brought about a bit of connection.  It really has spread much farther than I had thought possible.  From long ago clients (and current ones), to far away family members and friends living next door (so to speak), from past residents who can't quite get the Chilcotin out of their blood to people I've never met or have any direct connection to.....  I appreciate you all taking the time to stop in.  Don't hesitate to poke me if you don't hear from me as often as you think you should.  I work best under pressure.  (I'd laugh but it's 100% true, unfortunately.) 

My friend "Squirt".  He is an absolute champion in the bush and I trust him completely in rough country.  

We started rounded up and feeding the cattle around the middle of the month.  As we had such a mild fall, the cows were quite happily pushing their nose through what snow was there to get their meals.  But with the recent cold snap, we started pulling them in.  They can't really handle being out 'rustling' for their grub, and it being dang cold.  It's been a bit of a job however, as they are more spread out than usual this year.  This is a good thing, except when it comes time to round up.  Especially if you are the 'rounder upper'!  It is hard to put enough layers on to not get cold while riding.   It doesn't take many hours before toes start to solid up, no matter how many pairs of wool socks you've piled on.  And snow in the lap and down the back of the neck is just no fun at all, no matter the temperature.  

My three amigos, Brady, Dealer and Zip to the right.  

As we round them up, they are taken to the nearest ranch site/hay base.  It would be better to take them all to one place initially, but trust me, when you finally find a group just before dark, after riding in -20 for several hours, the decision of whether to leave them at the nearest hay pile or ride with them several more hours 'home' is an easy one.
Anyhow, I think we have them all, and we are getting them into more manageable groups now.  

 Moving a small group just a short distance Christmas morning.  Everyone spread out to do feeding chores as quickly as possible and we managed to all get back together by lunch time.  Beauty day!

This was from today.  Not nearly so nice (miss that sun) and it really was quite a long ride in the cold.  We took a big group up to one of our more remote meadows to feed out the hay there.  Dad built us a big fire when we arrived and it was nice to thaw out before the return trip back to the ranch.  

My Brady dog is a real character (they all are!) and a very different way about her than the border collies.  She moves, works and thinks very differently.  It is kind of refreshing actually and she certainly makes me smile, if not laugh out loud, on a regular basis.  One of the 'trick's' she has taught herself is to open the canopy door in my truck.  It has an old style wire opening system, and she noses it gently and then, head cocked, waits patiently to see if it will open so she can see out.  If it doesn't open, she noses the wire gently again, cocks her head to see if it worked that time, and repeats until the door slowly opens and she happily sits and watches the world rush away from her.  All the dogs are well mannered enough that they do not get out unless invited, but it is still rather unhandy.  We had to run down to Three Circle today to move the heifers off of their hay bales (they are put in in the morning, and out at night) and along with the cold, a couple of inches of fresh snow fell during the day.  
We watched Brady open the back window, as usual.  I made a comment to Eli about how the loose snow swirls in the canopy when she does that and we drove on.  
This is Brady's face when we arrived.  There certainly was some loose snow swirling!  She was delightedly proud of herself, just waiting patiently to be allowed out as usual and the others were huddled up, snowy and miserable and plotting revenge.  

Alright folks, my 'quick note' has to end before my head hits the keyboard and I start snoring.  

I'll catch up to you next year!!

All the best,


Tuesday 19 December 2017

Hope that saddle doesn't roll!

As some of you may remember, Eli and I sold all of our heifer calves last year (2016).  It was heartbreaking and something I'm going to regret for a long time.  There was no other option (we simply did not have the quality or amount of hay required), but it was a tough call to make.  I'm a total softie, I know, but I really love raising those babies up to be the excellent momma's they can be.  Or usually are.  We try hard to only keep the best, but occasionally we are surprised by an unexpected cranky one.  And if they are cranky as 'first calvers', they go.  They don't get sweeter with age, I can tell you that for sure!  There are many cows you have to 'watch' when they first calve (understandable, I may have been a wee bit cranky during childbirth as well and a hair protective directly after......), but anything really mean has no place here.    

2017 Replacement Heifer Calves

So, not keeping our heifer calves last year meant that we needed to purchase cows to keep our herd numbers up and growing.  We gathered some information and drove the 4 hours to Williams Lake for a late November sale.  I really hate buying through sales.....things happen too quickly for me.  I much prefer to visit with the seller on their property, see the cows where they are used to being, and decide if I'm willing to pay the asking price or not.  But anyhow...here we were.  

Some of the young cows 'rustling' for feed.  Looking fat and sassy...

We had a good look around the yards, found what we thought we wanted and then sat down for breakfast.  Mum and Dad introduced us to a rancher from the Vanderhoof area.  He was clearly full of experience and fun to chat to.  The conversations went on around me but I tuned in as he leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head and answered someones comment with one of his own.  "Yep. Ranching.  The most hopeful business in the world, next to farming.  The most hopeful people you will ever meet."  At everyone's 'deer in the headlights' stare, he elaborated.  "Hoping the snow holds off, hoping the grass holds, hoping the vaccinations work,  hoping the wolves find something else to eat, hoping the prices hold, hoping the tractor holds together, hoping there is enough hay, hoping the bulls did their job, just hoping, hoping, hoping.....  Yep.  Most hopeful bunch you'll every meet."  It took another second or two, but then we really laughed.   

It is totally true.  You won't have a conversation with a rancher without hearing 'hope' at some point, often regarding the weather.  (I have to hide a grin (or tell the story) every time I hear it now.)    

View from the office/school room.  

Eli says if we ever give up ranching, he is going to have a job that is not nearly so dependant on the whims of Mother Nature.  

We did end up buying a really nice group of heifers.  We paid a premium price (more than I would have liked, but current market value), but we got what we wanted.  Here is to hoping for a good calf crop from them.  It is always a worry as you are just depending on the sellers word as to what bulls they were put with and when.  I'm hopeful and mostly confident we bought from the right people (the heifers are from three different outfits).  I'll keep you posted.    

Some of our new heifers (they will have their first baby this spring).  The chalked "P" simply means they are vet checked to being pregnant.  We just branded and vaccinated them this day, they will get their new tags in the spring. 

Some Christmas Artwork by the boys.  

We are looking through the reflection of the sunset in the window to Jacksons cat in the schoolroom.  

And Marcia, I've been meaning to get to your question after my comment about wrapping latigos, following the Curt Pate Stockmanship Clinic.  So I'll elaborate a bit.  Just to be clear, I've been taught this, I didn't come up with it on my own.  All credit goes to Evan Howarth.  

A horse wasn't born with a saddle on his back and sometimes, even with plenty of preparation and exposure, they may react quickly and sometimes explosively to the event, especially with the first movements.  This certainly doesn't mean the horse is a 'bronc' by any means, it is just the way some of them need to learn that the saddle is not going to hurt them.  After all, it could be a cougar on their back for all they know!   One of the (many) proper steps to this being a success is to make dang sure that the saddle is going to stay on and stay upright.  Once the commitment is made to do up the cinch, it is super important to do it as efficiently as possible.  

By this point, the horse should be standing quietly with the saddle resting on his back.  You've let your cinches down from the right side and made sure they are straight and in the correct setting for that particular horse.  Back on the left side of your colt, your latigo is wrapped properly (from the UNDER side of the rigging, so it pulls out smoothly without binding.)  You hold the cinch snugly against the belly of the horse so there are no surprises, and since you've done your homework, your colt is fine with all of this.  Now it's time to wrap the latigo, so you quickly, but very smoothly and carefully, wrap around through the cinch and the rigging three times and then tighten it up.  Most people, myself included, generally do it twice on a day to day basis.  But if you do it three times, once it is snugged up, it will not come loose even if your horse turns inside out.  No need to tie it off even, as you must do if you only wrap it twice.  And generally that's where the problem lies....you've taken enough time, your horse is starting to feel the need to move, and you are struggling to get the cinch tight and the proper tie done.  Panic on all ends can happen and you REALLY don't want that horse bucking your saddle off, or it rolling under his belly.  No need to elaborate there, you get the picture.  Even if your horse starts to get worried, moves away and gets busy before the cinch is really snug enough, with three wraps you can just hang on to the end of the latigo and it will tighten and stay tight as he pulls away.  You are in a safe place (away from potentially kicking hooves) and your saddle will ride where it is meant to.    

It works well.  I've seen this method used for many years and not just on colts, but some pretty dang 'troubled' horses that fully put the theory to the test.   

And there is your horsemanship chat for the night!  

Wishing you and yours all the very best this Christmas season.